By Ruth Burns: Special to the PNT
Editor’s note: This is the second of two articles about George Causey and buffalo hunting on the plains.
In 1877, George Causey bought the water rights at Yellow House near the present site of Littlefield, Texas, and established a
permanent buffalo hunting camp there.
Yellow House, or Casas Amarillas, was named for a 100-foot high, flattop yellow bluff with caves in its sides that resembled a house when seen from a distance. Causey built a sod house, which came to be widely known as “Causey’s Sod House Camp on the Yellow Houses.”
Buster DeGraftenreid, old-timer of Melrose, has said that Causey had one of the biggest hunting camps on the plains. He also said of Causey: “He hunted and killed buffalo at Yellow House and in the spring of 1879 loaded his hides and meat, seven wagons with trailer wagons and seven to eight yokes of steers to a wagon.”
The most valuable possessions of the buffalo hunter were his horse and his rifle. Their rifle was developed by the Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Co. especially for hunting buffalo. J. Wright Mooar says in his book, “Buffalo Days,” “… its impact and tearing quality would bring down the biggest bison, if properly aimed, and reached out to incredible distances for rifles of that period.”
According to Causey’s nephew, V.H. Whitlock, “George Causey did most of the killing with a .45-90-caliber buffalo gun that was so heavy he had to use a rest stick to hold it up”
He also quotes Causey’s partner, Jeff Jefferson, as saying, “Causey killed more buffaloes in one winter on the Yellow Houses than Buffalo Bill Cody killed in his entire lifetime. But Causey didn’t have Ned Buntline for a publicity agent.”
Between the years of 1877 and 1882 were the height of the buffalo slaughter, with some 7,800 hides taken. After that, the herds were few and far between and most hunters left and went on to other occupations.
Causey is credited with killing the last herd of buffalo on the High Plains. According to Frank Collison in an article in the Amarillo Globe News, March 2, 1941:
“Causey killed the last small herd on the Llano Estacado the winter of 1882. They were killed north and west of Midland in the sand hills near Cedar Lake, Gaines County, Texas.”
With buffalo hunting becoming a losing proposition, Causey turned to salting and drying the buffalo meat for sale and collecting and shipping the innumerable
buffalo bones that were in demand back east for fertilizer. He also was involved in catching and breaking of wild mustangs that roamed the prairie.
Causey sold his rights at Yellow House to Jim Newman in 1882. He preceded to establish a ranch at Ranger Lake where he dug out some of the first shallow wells on the High Plains. He then sold the place and moved on to a location between the present cities of Hobbs and Lovington, where he built a large house, outbuildings and a small store and ran cattle under the JHB brand.
He and his brother R.L. “Bob” Causey secured a well-drilling outfit and traveled the country drilling water wells for the ranchers and the nesters who were pouring onto the plains.
At a mustang roundup in 1902, Causey was thrown by a horse and suffered a severe back injury. He spent the next year trying to find medical help and sold all his holdings to pay his doctor bills. He bought a small ranch near Kenna and ended his life there in 1903.
Buster DeGraftenreid has said of Causey, “George Causey was the first man I worked for in 1882 and he was fine in every way, and he sure knew the plains. He could and did travel from lake to lake at night more than in daytime, as he said there was lots of stars to go by and nothing to mislead you. All the old-timers liked George Causey. He never had an enemy.”
Ruth Burns has taken her information from the research and interviews of her mother, Rose Powers “Mrs. Eddie” White and from the books: “Cowboy Life on the Llano Estacado” by V.W. Whitlock, “The Border and the Buffalo” by John R. Cook, and “Buffalo Days” by J. Wright Mooar. She may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org